If you’re considering renting or buying heavy machinery, you must often choose between tracked or wheeled equipment. There is a lot of debate about whether tracks or wheels are better, but each has unique benefits and applications. No definite line determines which type of equipment works best since each has specifications that make them better suited to one job than another.
Learn about the differences between tracked and wheeled equipment, the benefits of each and how you can choose between each machine for your job specifications.
Tracks vs. Wheels
While there are a few differences between tracks and wheels or tires, the primary difference is their weight distribution. Wheels have smaller areas that come in contact with the ground as they rotate. The weight of the equipment, whether unloaded or loaded, is continuously transferred to the ground. The weight is evenly distributed to four points on the ground, often called point loading.
Tracked equipment has a significantly larger ground contact area compared to wheels. The track’s width and length cover more area than wheels can, which helps create lighter pounds per square inch (PSI) and reduces load transfer. Rather than cut into the ground like wheels, tracks help the equipment float over the ground.
The type of equipment you need will vary based on your applications. Some industries use wheeled equipment more often than tracked equipment and vice versa. Understanding the benefits of each type of equipment can help you determine which option is best for your applications.
Benefits of Tracked Equipment
Tracked equipment has several benefits, including stability, traction and component protection. Consider these benefits when deciding on what equipment to choose:
Smoother rides: Tracked machines usually offer smoother rides since they can absorb more energy than wheeled equipment due to their large bases and footprints. Operators can benefit from tracked equipment since they’re less likely to face instability due to dips, bumps or hollows.
Consistent traction: Tracked equipment has superior consistency compared to wheeled equipment. Wheeled machines can lose traction and break free, becoming a hazard and interrupting workflow. Tracked machines don’t experience this problem and remain consistent when delivering power to the ground so the operator can stay in control.
Reduced downtime: Tracked equipment is built to be tough, whereas wheels or tires have limitations. Tires are easy to puncture and can deflate depending on the conditions. Tires can also pop from sideways jolts. Tracked equipment doesn’t experience these problems, which can reduce downtime for your operations.
Improves seasonal challenges: Tracked equipment can get to job sites earlier in spring and later in the fall since it handles soft, wet ground better. Rubber track equipment is less likely to get bogged down in soggy ground, while wheels can’t often make it through this terrain, especially while carrying a load. Tracked equipment has a longer operating window, which helps projects get done sooner and increases the potential for more profit.
Flexibility: Tracked machines are more flexible than wheeled equipment since they can operate in almost every working condition. Tracked machines can travel from empty lots to swamps, which offers more flexibility than wheeled equipment.
Benefits of Wheeled Equipment
While tracked equipment has many benefits and a wide range of applications, wheeled equipment also has its place. Some benefits of wheeled equipment include the following:
Versatility: Most wheeled equipment is highly versatile since it can be equipped with various attachments. These attachments allow you to use these machines for multiple applications, such as snow plowing, trenching and material spreading. You can even equip wheeled equipment with slip-over tracks, which convert them to tracks depending on the needs of your applications.
Cost-effectiveness: The cost of buying or renting wheeled equipment is often less than buying or renting tracked equipment since tracks generally have an expensive required undercarriage. Wheeled machines only need their tires, brakes and hubs to absorb impact with the ground, which costs considerably less than the massive support tracked equipment requires.
Maintenance: Wheeled equipment typically needs less maintenance than tracked equipment since there are fewer moving parts, meaning there’s usually less wear and tear on the machine. Maintenance on these systems is often less expensive and faster, resulting in less downtime. As a result, businesses may experience less operating overhead, directly influencing the bottom line.
Life span: Wheeled equipment often has longer life spans than tracked machines. Equipment mounted on tires can operate for more hours than those on tracks. The tires, brakes and hubs last longer, extending the wheeled equipment’s life span. Replacements or repairs are also less common with equipment mounted on wheels.
Transportation: Wheeled equipment makes transportation easier compared to tracked equipment. You can often drive wheeled equipment on a road from one job site to the next rather than using a trailer and an additional truck to haul it to the next location, as you have to do with tracked equipment. More accessible transportation helps save on costs and time spent arranging for a truck and trailer to load, transport and unload tracked equipment.
How to Determine Which Option Is Best for You
Tracked and wheeled equipment both have a place within the construction industry. The machine you choose will depend on your applications and the specifics of each job. You’ll want to consider a few factors when trying to make your choice, including the following:
Cost: When choosing between tracked and wheeled equipment, remember that their initial cost doesn’t equate to their lifetime value. For example, while wheeled machines are often more affordable than tracked equipment, wheels will need to be repaired more often and have a higher risk of downtime. However, tracks can be more expensive to replace compared to the price of tires.
Maneuverability or mobility: Heavy equipment must be mobile and maneuverable when completing tasks, allowing them to perform precisely and efficiently. You’ll need to consider each machine’s traction against various surfaces. For example, tracked machines are often better on soft ground or wet mud, but wheeled equipment is usually best on asphalt and in snowy conditions.
Durability: The life span of your equipment is an essential consideration when choosing your equipment. Wheeled equipment often lasts longer when working on concrete or asphalt since tires are made to withstand these surfaces. When working on uneven ground with a higher hazard potential, tracks are the better choice. Each machine’s durability will depend on your work’s conditions, which will affect your choice.
Job specifications: Your job requirements and location will significantly impact your choice of equipment. For example, wheeled equipment is often best for backfilling a foundation or digging ditches. However, spring landscaping, lot clearing or trenching would best suit tracked equipment since tracks are better than wheels on the grass and other types of landscapes.
Find Tracked or Wheeled Equipment at Gregory Poole Equipment Company
Our team has been helping people since 1951, and we can help you find the necessary equipment without a hassle, helping reduce your downtime and save on costs. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.
Please be advised of upcoming traffic flow changes into our Beryl Road and Blue Ridge Road locations.